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February 9, 2003

Alms House Admission Records, New York City, NY 1855-1858

In the early 1800's port cities in the USA bore the burden of immigration. By the time they arrived, so many immigrants were tired, hungry and poor they ended up in the City Almshouse.

I've transcribed more records from the Alms House Admission Foreigners & Nativity Records ( New York City, NY)

These records apply to immigrants to Quebec, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Boston.

These records are from the years 1855 to 1858 and include the name of the ship each person sailed on (if they remembered it), the date they arrived, the ports of departure and arrival,their age, their place of origin and more.

I'm transcribing the records as best I can but the originals were only in fair shape, and some of the writing is almost illegible. They are in a very cramped hand, it seems the clerks had little room to make their entries in these ledger books, and some of the writing is so tiny that it is difficult if not impossible to read!

Here is an example of the kinds of information found in the Almshouse records:

In Mar 1856 John Coleman, age 15, single, from Ireland applied for relief. He told the clerk of the Almshouse that sailed from Liverpool on the Ship Ontario, arriving on 19 Dec. 1855 in New York. He didn't know the Captain's name, and had no one to vouch for him from New York City.

It was his first time 'on the island" (meaning applying for relief). He was discharged in April 1856. A search of's New York Passenger Lists 1851-1891 did turn up the Ship Ontario arriving New York City on 30 December 1855, no John Coleman listed, but some of the passenger names were illegible. Was John on board? Probably, although he may have been a stowaway and not on the passenger list

Sometimes comments were added in the column for death or discharge dates. For example, poor Bridget Connor applied for relief on Apr 30, 1855. Bridget, 26, a spinster from Ireland told the clerk she sailed "about 20 months ago" from Tralee to Quebec.

Bridget gave her ship name as Payoo or Payne, Captain O'Donohan commanding. This was her third time on the island,and the clerk recorded "Stupid" beside her discharge date of 16 Jan. '57 (If you find an ancestor with such a notation, or "insane" as I have also seen, don't be alarmed - sometimes not knowing how to add was enough to be labelled as "stupid"!)

One poor man was noted as having run off and eloped to Quebec!

There are many entries for individuals sailing to Quebec and Montreal, mainly from Ireland, so if you are looking for an elusive ancestor arriving in Canada in the time period 1850-1858 you will want to check these records.

The ports of arrival so far are New York, New Orleans,Quebec, Montreal, Philadelphia and Boston.

Places of origin are Ireland, England, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland, with the majority being Irish

For New York arrivals, this is a wonderful addition to help with those UNindexed years.

The index to the records can be found at

This set of records adds to the existing records I have already transcribed and put online for the NYC Almshouse for 1819-1822(with 1823 to 1840 to follow) starting at

I hope you enjoy this set of records; it's great fun reading and transcribing these wonderful entries!